Bolinas residents are eager to take advantage of a newly proposed public pool in Mesa Park, but a contingent of critics argue that the project location, an unkempt regulation-sized baseball diamond, would displace Junior League baseball teams.
Little League coach Dirk McCall, who learned of the proposal at a public meeting on Sunday, opposes the destruction of the decommissioned field, which could eventually host not only the 16 kids he coaches on the newly established Bolinas Blue Jays minors team but also future generations of young ballplayers when they outgrow the smaller adjacent field.
“I’m not against the pool,” said McCall, who moved to Bolinas seven years ago, partly because of the two fields. “I think it’s unconscionable to destroy a baseball field. What are these teenage boys gonna do? We had a really good team, a really good vibe. I’m trying to build something special out there. I wanna play ball with my kids and others. The rest of life is a bit of a mystery to me.”
McCall said coaches are currently putting together a younger farm team, which already has 12 six-year-olds signed up. He expects there will be more than enough interest to regularly field older teams by fall 2013.
But for the Mesa Park Board to be dissuaded from constructing a pool in the ball field, Jack Siedman said there would need to be a substantial uptick in baseball players in the 13-and-up age group. “We would need a substantial increase in the kids in our community,” said Siedman, the president of the Bolinas Community Public Utilities District and a former member of the Mesa Park Board. “Personally, I don’t see it happening.”
When McCall raised the issue on Sunday, his comments were dismissed by the Mesa Park Pool Feasibility Committee, which hosted the meeting. Jane Mickelson, a member, said the location had already been decided upon because it was the only open space in Mesa Park and it has not been used by a formal team for several years.
“It’s not like we’re anti-baseball,” Mickelson said. “We all have our passions. We struggle here to be democratic and give everyone a voice. But people have wanted this pool for a quarter of a century. Not everybody’s gonna win.”
Assistant coach Jonathan Cunha doubted that the two sporting complexes are mutually exclusive. “In a place like Bolinas, where there’s a lot of space, I find it hard to believe that there’s not enough room to accommodate everything,” he said. “It might be in the longer-term interest of the community to plan for it.”
Leo Kostelnik, also an assistant coach, said that while he understood the difficulty of finding a location for the project, the ideal site would be one with no existing use. Cunha suggested leasing land from an adjacent ranch and McCall proposed building it in the parking lot behind the firehouse.
Zack Miller, who had a hand in building and maintaining the ball field many years ago and played on it throughout his childhood, questioned the reasoning behind the location. “What are they gonna do with all the excess land?” Miller said. “If, say, they did plot it out on the field somewhere, that’s a huge field for a pool that’s probably gonna have some sort of building around it, but I mean it’s not gonna be that big, obviously. It would be a waste of space.”
Plans to build a pool in Bolinas date back decades, but recently became more viable when a water meter at the downtown park became available for use by the Mesa Park Board.
More than 130 people attended the meeting on Sunday, where the pool committee announced the plans for the user-supported pool: it would be 75 by 40 feet, heated, enclosed in a glass structure and operated with cutting edge solar energy and environmentally sound filtration systems.
Mickelson said the point of the meeting was to hear concerns and suggestions and gauge interest with a survey, which is being passed out around the community, before the Mesa Park Pool Feasibility Committee moves on with cost estimates and fundraising.
The committee hopes to evaluate the surveys by the end of the year and start the financing process, which will explore private donations as well as state grants.
Some people expressed interest on Sunday in a full-sized Olympic pool with 164-foot lanes and 82 foot width. Lorenzo Ferlinghetti, an avid surfer, said going up to the full-size would be negligible to the overall cost. “I think [the pool is] a great idea,” he said. “Swimming is the best training for surfing. There’s a lot of people who agree with that.”
Nicolette Niman, a triathlete who views the lack of a swimming pool as the only real drawback of living in Bolinas, is in favor of an outdoor setup instead of the proposed glass enclosure but said she would support the pool no matter what.
“Of course, you can go into the ocean, but it’s not a place you can go to swim, really, for exercise,” she said. “[The pool] would be an enormous benefit to the community.”
Perhaps when construction crews finally roll in, McCall’s team will be in the bottom of the ninth with a full-count and one run to score and they’ll halt just to watch.